Boat Docking in a Quartering Wind
By Charles T. Low, author of Boat Docking for Boat Safe
Boat Docking is a wonderful book. Its descriptive subtitle, “Close Quarters Maneuvering for Small Craft”, says it all. Boaters of all types have taken to this book like — well — like boaters to water!
You will like what you read here. Then, you can read a review and order Boat Docking right here on the Boat Safe web site.
Now, on to a Quartering Wind.
Kindly overlook any apparent self-aggrandizement if I describe one of my more successful dockings. Rest assured that I am only human, and that I have also had my own share of humbling close quarters encounters, which you will never hear about!
Those of you who have been following this column will, by now, recognize the familiar refrains of some of the basic principles which underlie all docking maneuvers. It is the “timing, vigor and duration” of these maneuvers which vary, docking in a quartering wind being no exception. It is difficult to show, in a diagram, how different this is from docking in calm weather. The “crabbing”, angled track through the water, to compensate for the wind, the more decisive use of engine power, the unavoidable speed with which everything happens — all of these are very unlike the similar maneuver on a windless day, and yet on paper the distinctions appear much more subtle than they really are.
Doing it well involves understanding (even if “only” intuitively) something about hulls (and their interactions with water and air), rudder steering, propeller steering (asymmetrical thrust), and angular and linear momentum, among other things. All of these topics receive thorough coverage in the book Boat Docking , which also describes many more specific docking scenarios than we can ever hope to present here.
The quartering wind docking holds a special place in my heart. Years ago, during research for the book, a dockhand complimented my docking. “Best I’ve seen today!”, he said, feelingly. It seemed significant at the time because, firstly, I am arguably a little klutzy. Furthermore, it was late in the afternoon, so I was by no means the first boater he had helped in that day. I thought, “Yes, this is beginning to work better!”
The assigned berth would have us docking on the starboard side in a starboard quartering wind — certainly not easy, especially in a high-windage boat. The problem that everyone there had been having that day was that, as a boat slowed to a stop, the wind would send it skittering off sideways before its crew could step ashore or attach lines to hold it in place. It would not have been pretty, and was probably quite exasperating for the marina staff who had seen it fumbled too many times that day.
What Charles did: Aw, gee, it weren’t nothin’, really! Truthfully, at first, it weren’t nothing — I just circled around a few times, back and forth past the slip, feeling how the boat and I were handling that day in that wind, and giving myself time to formulate a plan. My crew and passengers pushed me a little, wanting me to act more quickly and decisively. The dockhand was waiting — and waiting — unaware, as yet, that his patience was about to be rewarded.
So, lesson number one: There is no need to rush, unless the boat is sinking or is on fire (or two boats are vying for the last open slip).
Keeping up the momentum: From here on in, this docking is a momentum (and/or “momentous”) exercise. This particular technique (there are others, of course) entails taking a gentle(!) run at it. (Make sure your lines and fenders are organized first!) Now, as you slow to a stop, thereby losing the ability to steer to the boat, all won't be lost because you have pre-steered. Notice the angled approach, establishing momentum which will, to some degree, continue your upwind, dockwards, sideways journey towards the dock, against the wind, even without further throttle or rudder control. Also, just before shifting into neutral or reverse gear (as the occasion demands), give the boat a little spin — it will continue to yaw, and slide the boat into a parallel orientation with the dock.
It all amounts to a spinning skid into position, and it requires some practice and experience to get it right. I have found that the practice goes better if one has some idea where to start — book learning and water time going hand in hand.
Our troubles weren't over yet. It was still a struggle to get the first two lines on smartly, but at least we got close enough to the dock, without hitting, that the dockhand could grab a rail and the crew could step ashore and start to tie up.
Conclusion — Every docking is different. Learning the principles is great, and learning the “timing, vigor and duration”, out on the water, builds confidence and makes your love of boating even more blissful.
Boat Docking in a Quartering Wind — for Boat Safe
Copyright © 1998 ctLow
You will want to read Capt. Matt’s review of Boat Docking , where there is also information about how to order a copy of the book for yourself!